A senior United States official on Wednesday once again raised Washington's discomfiture with the Nuclear Limited Liability Bill approved by Parliament last month and felt India should harmonise it with international laws.

“India has to make its own decision but in making decisions, it will be wise for India to look at the practices of other countries and ensure that its regulations and its laws are consistent with those of other countries,” said U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats. He was speaking to journalists after an interactive session on India-U.S. bilateral economic relationship organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Aspen Institute.

The government here, on the other hand, claims that the legislation is compatible with international standards.

The Nuclear Liability Bill ran into objections from the U.S. soon after it was passed on August 30. The first off the block was the U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC), which suggested the next day that the Indian law appeared to be incompatible with the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC).

“A nuclear liability regime consistent with the CSC will safeguard Indian public interest by delivering swift, certain and adequate compensation in the unlikely event of an accident. It will also attract to India the most responsible international suppliers, and integrate Indian industry into the global commercial nuclear supply chain. The absence of an effective, CSC-compliant liability regime could preclude involvement by the private sector — both Indian and foreign — and stymie India's multi-year effort to develop civil nuclear power,” the USIBC had said in a statement.

U.S. State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley followed it up earlier this week by suggesting that Washington would “look to the Indian government to see what changes” could be made to the Indian Nuclear Liability Bill. “We continue our discussions with the Indian government on this issue and we note that Indian business leaders are concerned about some specific aspects of the law that was just passed by Parliament,” he had said.

A few days after Mr. Crowley made the observations, highly placed sources here once again said there was little possibility of New Delhi attempting to make changes in a Bill that saw the government's party managers straining every nerve to get the Bill passed. They, however, declined to comment on the possibility of the government bending to Washington's wishes by placing a side letter that obviates liability from accruing to its equipment-supplying companies in case of an accident.

FDI in defence and insurance sectors

While welcoming Indian investments in the U.S., Mr. Hormats expressed the need to restart negotiations on Bilateral Investment Treaty between the two countries. “We welcome investment of Indian companies in the U.S. as providers of capital, know-how, American jobs, dynamic innovation and highly talented people,” said Mr. Hormats. He also called upon the Centre to open up Foreign Direct Investment limits in insurance and defence.

“The Government of India can help by reducing investment limits in infrastructure, retail, defence and insurance sectors,” he said.

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